Pleasant Home Farm

Preserving old traditions, making new ones, and building family and community


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In the greenhouse

It was warm today. I know you don’t believe me because it’s March, and I live in Michigan. But it’s true. The temperature got past 40 degrees, which meant that inside our crummy little aluminum-framed greenhouse it was warm enough to plant stuff.

When we go to market in May we like to have fresh greens available. That means we need to plant things like spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard in the ground inside our greenhouse as soon as we get a warm day. Today was that day. Gene filled the water barrel with warm water from the barn while I sowed blocks of yummy greens and short rows of purple plum and French breakfast radishes. Then I dipped the old galvanized watering can into the water barrel to fill it, and watered the seeds in. I can hardly wait for them to germinate and pop through the soil. As oppressive as every Winter feels, every Spring feels miraculous to me.

    February
    C. Goetze

    Dry dark grips hours
    summer days will steal.

    Soil like snarled concrete
    beneath my boots, frost heaved

    the earth awaits the sun
    awaits its resurrection

    in my glass house, sweating streams
    streak clouded panes like tears.

    I prepare the altar, worship
    my own faith in futures.

    Mellow soil dots my fingers.
    I make wombs for germs of miracles.

Someday we will have a big beautiful heated greenhouse like this one. Of course, we will build ours ourselves, not buy it.

I would change it so that the north side is less glass and more rock for better passive solar use.

I would change it so that the north side is less glass and more rock for better passive solar use.

In the meantime, I’m thankful to be planting in any greenhouse at all, and happy to be thinking ahead to when it will be green outside again instead of grey and white.

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Dreaming of dirt under my nails

It snowed most of yesterday, and we still have a few flakes floating around. The temperatures have been warm for February, so the snow is heavy and is weighing down the branches of the evergreens. It’s quite beautiful. I can say that, even though Winter’s hard on me. It’s just too cold and there’s too much dark for a woman who spent as much of her childhood as she could on the beach or in the water in southern California. I could spend a lot of time complaining about how much the winter bothers me, but instead I think I’ll daydream about Spring.

Gene and I have been gardening for years. We had our very first garden behind the townhouse we shared in Illinois. It was outlined with railroad ties and chain link fence. The sugar snap peas grew up the fence and our dog snacked on them (after she finished with Gene’s hunting boots). Of course we ended up moving during the height of tomato season, and because it was military housing the garden had to go. It just about broke Gene’s heart to see the potential in those plants wasted.

Since then there have been many gardens. Our current gardens surround the house and include heirloom roses and peonies from generations of gardeners who have loved this patch of ground. We’re so very fortunate.

Our main vegetable garden is north of the house. It’s a giant utilitarian rectangle that we ring with sunflowers and bluebird boxes every summer. We have tried intensive gardening in semi-raised beds, but our bodies are not getting younger. Now we garden in rows wide enough for Gene’s John Deere tractor and some small implements we’ve picked up at auction and estate sales.

Gardening involves trial and error. It also involves research. We have shelves full of books on the subject. Many of them are very good resources. But there’s a reason I kept picking up new ones. None of them seemed to help keep me on track on a day-to-day basis during the growing season, until last year. That’s when I came across the most useful all-around gardening book I have ever put my hands on: Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski. I don’t care whether you are a novice or an old hand at gardening, and it doesn’t matter where you live. This book will help you be a better vegetable gardener. It has helpful tips, along with good information about soil and tools and planning and planting. But best of all, it is set up so that you can schedule what you do and when you do it, according to your area’s average last frost date.

See what I mean? You enter the date based on your area's average last frost and the tasks are listed for you.

See what I mean? You enter the date based on your area’s average last frost and the tasks are listed for you.

On a day like today, when it’s been snowing too much and the wind is blowing colder air in from the north, just opening this book to “11 weeks before average date of last frost” helps me immensely. Oh! I need to start my cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and kohlrabi for transplants. Let’s see if Gene can turn over the compost pile and mix it with some worm dirt from the basement for me.